Is Cruise Travel Evolving In A Way That Is Good For The Planet?

Cruise ship tourism is unfortunately not disappearing as we might have hoped. Are the ships evolving to be more environmentally and socially responsible? Our thanks to Maria Cramer for asking and attempting to answer the question:

How Green is Your Cruise?

As cruise companies head into their busiest season, they say they have ambitious plans to curb greenhouse emissions and find cleaner sources of fuel. But critics say the progress is too slow.

In the Caribbean, many cruise companies have bought islands and turned them into private resorts for the exclusive use of cruise passengers who cavort in enormous wave pools, rush down 135-foot water slides with names like Daredevil’s Peak, and zip-line across wide beaches. Continue reading

Thwaites & Us

Probes beneath the ice could shed light on the fate of the world’s coastlines. Illustration by Owen D. Pomery

Most of us do not spend much time thinking about what is happening there, but Antarctica’s future is now very much entwined with the future of the rest of the planet.  All of us. So, thanks to David W. Brown for this travelogue:

Journey to the Doomsday Glacier

Thwaites could reshape the world’s coastlines. But how do you study one of the world’s most inaccessible places?

I first saw our icebreaker, the RV Araon, when we were due to leave for Antarctica. The largest icebreakers are more than five hundred feet long, but the Araon was only the length of a football field; I wondered how it would handle the waves of the Southern Ocean, and how it would fare against the thick sea ice that guards the last wilderness on Earth. Continue reading

Imposing On Pastoral Beauty To Capture Wind’s Power

Pinnacle turbines dot the skyline in Keyser, West Virginia, where, according to Andrew Cosner, a twenty-one-year-old technician, some residents remain hostile to the new wind farm: “They say it ruins the landscape and it’s ugly.”

It is to each of us whether we find the view attractive or not, and there was a time when I found large man-made structures an imposition on pastoral beauty.

Smith stands in the nacelle of one of the turbines just before daybreak.

As time passes I find myself drawn more to such a view as that in the photo above as a signal of progress.  It is not because the view is in a place far away from me– on the mountain ridge above where I live there is a row of such turbines and I am constantly gazing at that horizon. Published in the print edition of the November 28, 2022, issue of the New Yorker, with the headline “Blade Runners,” D.T. Max provides some context, but the photos do the heavy lifting:

THE BLADE RUNNERS POWERING A WIND FARM

In West Virginia, a crew of five watches over twenty-three giant turbines.

The Pinnacle wind-power plant extends for roughly four miles in the northeastern corner of West Virginia. Continue reading

Precision Fermentation’s Implied Potential

Illustration: Eleanor Shakespeare/The Guardian

It is the first time we are seeing these two words together, and George Monbiot has this to say about the potential implied:

Embrace what may be the most important green technology ever. It could save us all

Never mind the yuck factor: precision fermentation could produce new staple foods, and end our reliance on farming

So what do we do now? After 27 summits and no effective action, it seems that the real purpose was to keep us talking. If governments were serious about preventing climate breakdown, there would have been no Cops 2-27. The major issues would have been resolved at Cop1, as the ozone depletion crisis was at a single summit in Montreal. Continue reading

Cover Considered

We link to essays and articles, as well as profiles and book reviews from this magazine constantly, but never previously to a cover and only once, by reference, to cartoons. The cover of this week’s issue merits consideration:

Birgit Schössow’s “The Future Is Here”

The artist talks about incorporating environmental themes in her work, and the historical inspiration behind her cover for the Climate Issue.

Françoise Mouly,  Birgit Schössow

Hokusai’s “Under the Wave off Kanagawa,” circa 1830-32, is said to have inspired Debussy’s piece “La mer” (The Sea) and Rilke’s poem “Der Berg” (The Mountain).

In her new cover, the Germany-based artist Birgit Schössow drew inspiration from an artistic masterpiece. Starting in the late seventeen-hundreds, the Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai created woodblock prints in a genre called ukiyo-e, part of an artistic movement known as “the floating world.” One of Hokusai’s best-known works is one of a series called “Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji” that shows a giant wave cresting in the foreground. The wave’s dramatic curve and stature, topped with a skim of frilly foam, are so eye-catching that you might miss the slender fishing boat it’s about to topple onto. Continue reading

Startling Capacities Of Regional Forests

Harvard Forest (pictured) was included in a study that looks at how New England forests can be better utilized in the fight against climate change.
Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer

We had no clue how much forest area that region has, nor how much capacity to absorb carbon that would translate to:

New England forests, new strategies can offset most regional emissions over 30 years, report says

Study, led by Harvard ecologist, lays out five policies to boost levels of absorption as six states lower emissions

A major new report suggests that with a handful of strategies New England’s 32 million acres of forests, which cover about three-quarters of the region, could eventually come close to absorbing 100 percent of all the carbon produced by the six states. Continue reading

Coral Defying The Odds

Corals in the waters of the Ras Mohammed National Park in the Red Sea near Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, home to one of the only reefs in the world that can tolerate heat. Sima Diab for The New York Times

Our thanks to Jenny Gross and Vivian Yee reporting from Egypt:

Attendees of the United Nations climate conference took breaks from negotiations to see the corals for themselves.Credit…Mohammed Abed/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

As warming waters devastate coral around the world, the sea’s stunningly colorful reefs have been remarkably resilient. But pollution, mass tourism and overfishing put them at risk.

SHARM El SHEIKH, Egypt — The vast majority of the world’s coral reefs are likely to be severely damaged in the coming decades if the planet keeps warming at its current rate. Continue reading

Fridays For Future @COP27

Fridays for Future protest calling for money for climate action at Cop27. Photograph: Peter de Jong/AP

If you wonder what our youth are up to, take a look at what the Guardian’s team of Fiona Harvey, with Adam Morton and Patrick Greenfield is reporting from Sharm el-Sheikh:

Cop27: EU agrees to loss and damage fund to help poor countries amid climate disasters

Change in stance puts spotlight on US and China, which have both objected to fund

A breakthrough looked possible in the deadlocked global climate talks on Friday as the European Union made a dramatic intervention to agree to key developing world demands on financial help for poor countries. Continue reading

Canada’s Best Tide Forward

As Brazil turns the tide to its better environmental self, the New York Times reporter Ian Austen explains how Canada harnesses its best tide for an environmental feat long dreamed of:

The Bay of Fundy’s funnel shape is part of the reason for its exceptional tides. Along its 96 or so miles of length, the bay dramatically narrows and its depth drops, from 765 feet to 147 feet. David Goldman for The New York Times

Who Will Win the Race to Generate Electricity From Ocean Tides?

The Bay of Fundy, between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, has one of the world’s most powerful tides. Now, engineers and scientists hope to finally turn it into a clean energy source.

ABOARD THE PLAT-I 6.40 GENERATING PLATFORM, Nova Scotia — The Bay of Fundy, off the Canadian provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, has long tantalized and frustrated engineers hoping to harness its record-setting 50-foot high tide to generate electricity. Continue reading

Turning Around Brazil

Brazil's president-elect, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, at a rally in July.

Brazil’s president-elect, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, at a rally in July. ANDRESSA ANHOLETE / GETTY IMAGES

We can only hope the answer is yes:

With Lula Back, Can Brazil Turn the Tide on Amazon Destruction?

With his return as Brazil’s president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is promising to reverse the alarming rate of deforestation in the Amazon. But as he heads to key UN climate talks, his ambitious plans to achieve “zero deforestation” will need to find international support.

A forest fire burns near the author's home in Altimira, Brazil last month.

A forest fire burns near the author’s home in Altimira, Brazil last month. JON WATTS

The month before Brazil’s October 30 presidential election was the most brutal of Jair Bolsonaro’s term as president. Landowners rushed to illegally clear forest while they could rely on the impunity that had been a characteristic of the Bolsonaro era. From my home in Altamira, I could see flames on the other side of the Xingu River from a blaze large enough to generate its own lightning. Most other days in September and October, my asthmatic lungs tightened and the horizon was shrouded in haze as a consequence of the rushed burn-off. Continue reading

Nepal’s Community Forests

Note: Green areas show land that is mostly covered by trees, based on an analysis of satellite imagery. Source: Jefferson Fox, Jamon Van Den Hoek, Kaspar Hurni, Alexander Smith and Sumeet Saksena.By Pablo Robles

We have shared plenty of stories about Nepal, but until now no story about Nepal involving trees or forests. We welcome this one:

The community forests in Khairahani, Nepal, stretching over several tree-capped hills in March. Karan Deep Singh/The New York Times

An effort decades in the making is showing results in Nepal, a rare success story in a world of cascading climate disasters and despair

KANKALI COMMUNITY FOREST, Nepal — The old man moved gingerly, hill after hill, cutting dry shrubs until he was surrounded by trees that had grown from seedlings he had planted two decades ago. He pointed to a row of low peaks above the Kathmandu valley that were covered with dense foliage. Continue reading

Greenhouse By Joost

We have not heard news of Joost Bakker in over a decade, so Max Veenhuyzen’s profile and introduction to the documentary previewed above is most welcome:

‘We can have houses covered with biology, plants, ecosystems and waterfalls’: Greenhouse by Joost documents the green-thinking initiatives of Future Food System. Photograph: Dean Bradley/Madman Entertainment

Mushroom walls and waste-fuelled stoves: inside the self-sufficient home of tomorrow

Joost Bakker believes a house can be more than a place to live: it can be a self-sustaining weapon against the climate crisis. A new Australian documentary explores his bold blueprint

Future Food System is anchored by self-watering garden beds filled with 35 tonnes of soil. Photograph: Earl Carter Images

“The most destructive things we humans do,” says Joost Bakker, “is eat.”

In terms of sentences that grab your attention, the introduction to new Australian documentary Greenhouse by Joost is right up there. Then again, Bakker – a multi-disciplinary designer, no-waste advocate and the film’s eponymous protagonist – has long been something of a provocateur. Continue reading

Blue Carbon Collaboration

Scientists fixed bio-logger tags equipped with cameras on tiger sharks in the Bahamas to map the ocean’s seagrass meadows. Photograph: Diego Camejo/Beneath the Waves

We thank Laura Paddison for this underwater news, published in the Guardian, that has implication for climate change mitigation:

Scientists discover ‘world’s largest’ seagrass forest – by strapping cameras to sharks

New study, carried out using tiger sharks in the Bahamas, extends total known global seagrass coverage by more than 40%

Tiger sharks are notoriously fierce. The huge animals, which can grow to more than 16ft, are ruthless predators and scared of absolutely nothing – recent research found that while other shark species fled coastal waters during strong storms, tiger sharks “didn’t even flinch”.

But recently they have a new role that could help burnish their reputations: marine scientists. Continue reading

What Billionaires Are Responsible For

Andrew Steer speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos in May. Photograph: Ciaran McCrickard/World Economic Forum

At first, and even second glance, this argument is reasonable, so we share it in good faith:

Billionaires should not make up climate finance gaps, says Bezos Earth Fund head

Rich countries ‘not living up to obligations’, says Andrew Steer, in charge of $10bn environmental fund

Billionaires can not be expected to make up for climate finance gaps left by rich countries that fail to deliver on promises to the developing world, the head of the Bezos Earth Fund has said…

The article is worth reading at the source, in the Guardian, and our thanks as always to that newspaper and Patrick Greenfield.

But if you want a different take on what billionaires are responsible for, you might want to read what Anand Giridharadas has to say on the topic.

Or, at least read the review in the Guardian of his 2018 book.

Berms & Dunes & Native Knowhow

Old State Route 105 ends abruptly at the edge of the Pacific Ocean, after coastal erosion took out the road near the Shoalwater Bay Reservation in Tokeland, Wash.

We have often thought consulting those who have been on the land longest is a good idea, so this story is heartening:

Native American tribes are competing for the first federal grants designed to help move communities away from high water and other dangers posed by climate change.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is building a dune to protect the Shoalwater Bay Reservation.

SHOALWATER BAY INDIAN RESERVATION, Wash. — The van carrying tribal officials veered off the coastal highway, away from the Pacific and onto a dirt path hidden by cedar and spruce trees. After climbing an old logging road, it emerged into a clearing high above the Shoalwater Bay Indian Reservation, half a square mile of oceanfront that’s disappearing fast.

The tribal leaders want to relocate to the remote hilltop where they were standing, despite its uneven terrain. “If you can believe it, this is the most suitable land we have for building,” said Quintin Swanson, treasurer of the 471-member tribe. Moving up the mountain could cost half a billion dollars, he said.

As climate change gets worse, tribes like Shoalwater Bay are being squeezed between existential threats and brutal financial arithmetic. Consigned to marginal land more than a century ago by the United States government, some tribes are now trying to relocate to areas better protected from extreme weather yet lack the money to pay for that move. Continue reading

Choose Your Hope Vector Carefully

We all need an occasional dose of hope, especially when it comes to climate change. Choosing the right kind makes a huge difference, so give McKibben’s newsletter a thorough reading this week:

Magical Hope vs Actual Hope

Left or right, physics doesn’t much care about your wishful thinking

I spent the weekend in Reno, Nevada with, among other people, my old friend Rebecca Solnit. We were there to rally voters and knock on doors in one of the nastiest elections in the country—and at such times Solnit’s powerful reflections on hope are a balm and a spur. Continue reading

David Wallace-Wells & Co With New Perspective

After providing some of the deepest gloom, one of the environmental journalists we respect for not flinching or sugar-coating is singing a new tune, at least on this day:

Beyond Catastrophe

A New Climate Reality Is Coming Into View

By David Wallace-Wells
Photographs by Devin Oktar Yalkin
Captions by Charley Locke

You can never really see the future, only imagine it, then try to make sense of the new world when it arrives Continue reading

Birds, Us, Past & Future

Our daily photo feature has been a long-running privilege for us to share from our various bird photographer friends who travel the world, and clearly a reason for some visitors to stay tuned here. We do what we can to ensure those birds are there for future generations to appreciate. The book featured above is likely to be of interest to many of those visitors. The author, seen only once before in our pages more than ten years ago, Tim Birkhead offers historical perspective that is well-reviewed and his publisher has this to say:

Since the dawn of human history, birds have stirred our imagination, inspiring and challenging our ideas about science, faith, art, and philosophy. Continue reading

British Rainforest Revival

Human activity has impacted the amount of temperate rainforest in the UK but it still exists in a few places, such as the Brecon Beacons in Wales. Photograph: Henk Meijer/Alamy

We already knew that rainforests are not only tropical ecosystems. But when you live in the tropics, you can forget. Our thanks as always to Patrick Greenfield, and to the Guardian, for this reminder:

Exclusive: campaigners call for protection and careful tree-planting to help restore the temperate rainforests that once covered swathes of the country

Rainforest, which has been decimated over thousands of years, has the potential to be restored across a fifth of Great Britain, a new map reveals. Continue reading

Memo From Mr. Gates

We have only rarely linked to stories featuring or mentioning Mr. Gates.

This is not because we do not value his opinions; we think he is the smart money on multiple fronts. Climate change is one of them.

Even if we consider McKibben the more reliable scribe, and even if we give Malmo his due, this is still smart money territory:

The state of the energy transition

My annual memo about the journey to zero emissions.

When I first started learning about climate change 15 years ago, I came to three conclusions. First, avoiding a climate disaster would be the hardest challenge people had ever faced. Second, the only way to do it was to invest aggressively in clean-energy innovation and deployment. And third, we needed to get going. Continue reading